Friday, June 26, 2015

It's a Dialog, Not a Fight

I'm sitting here right now using a website called 750Words.

The idea behind it is that you do a freewrite every day of seven hundred fifty words.  That's more or less three pages of material, and is based on the Morning Pages idea Julia Cameron talks about in The Artist's Way.

I've never read it *blush* but I do like the idea of daily practice.  I've been using the site for a few years now, and try to write that seven hundred fifty words every day to keep my writing skills sharp.  Yes, practice is important in any endeavor if you want to gain mastery!  (Can't tell I am a teacher, can you?)

Because I do try to come up with seven hundred fifty words a day and I'd rather it be on a subject rather than random drivel about how HARD it is to come up with a topic every day, I do make mental notes about what to write.

As I was thinking this morning and deciding on what I wanted to ramble on about today, I was struck by some language that is often used when talking about marathon swims.  They're words of conquest and winning against bodies of water.

That kind of language is a speed bump to me.  I love water.  I have loved water my entire life.   My parents tell me a story of when I was a young toddler and the family was staying at the Halifax in Virginia Beach.  My grandmother (I called her Nanny) and I were at the water's edge.  Nanny was sitting in the sand holding me and I was splashing in the waves that washed up over her legs.

Then an unexpectedly large wave hit that knocked Nanny and I down.  She had good reflexes and was able to keep hold of me, as well as keep my head above water until the wave receded.   Even though I am sure that scared Nanny quite badly, I am told she treated it as a fun adventure for us rather than something to be afraid of.

Even now, older than Nanny was then and of quite matronly proportions, I still get out in the waves for family Beach Week and body surf with my dad and brother.

But what I have been taught from early childhood is that water is the ultimate power.  That water is bigger and stronger than any human.  (Daddy used to whip impromptu physics lessons on my brother and I when we were body surfing to prove this WITH SCIENCE.)  That the best way to deal is to show water lots and lots of respect.  That no, getting out on the water isn't the safest thing you can do, but if you show the water that respect, you'll do better.

I suppose it's like John Blackthorne said in Shogun.  "The man who's not afraid of the sea'll soon be drownded for he'll go out on a day he shouldn't.  We be afraid of the sea, so we be only drownded now and again."  (Remember, in the early 17th Century, "fear" and "respect" had closer connotations than it does in 21st Century English -- see the King James translation of the Bible against other more modern translations.  I'm not sure if Clavell was intending to be that subtle, though.  As a writer, he generally wasn't)

It's not that I don't get where they're coming from when they say they've "conquered" the English Channel or something.  It's the challenge that's really being spoken of and that is certainly an amazing victory.  I wouldn't even say it's a bad way to look at it.  It's just alien to the way I think of it.

For me, it's a more intimate thing, and less about conquering the water and more about the interaction and communication with the water.  It's dancing together, or a sparring match.  If you don't think a sparring match can be intimate communication, all I can say is you really REALLY need to watch a scene in Pacific Rim!  They got it better than I've ever seen it portrayed in film. And the idea of the serious disparity in strength isn't weird to me in this.  I'm five two and female.  MOST of my sparring partners in training were a lot bigger and stronger than I am.

I guess I feel like it's more that the body of water allows you to swim it -- if you CAN.  You have to train and gain the ability.  Then, on your particular day to do the swim, the water decides if it's going to allow it that day.  It might throw challenges your way, sure.    It might test your training.  It may humble your arrogance.

It's why for me the language of conquest doesn't work.  At least not in terms of the water as an adversary.
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